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Oil: The Ultimate Makeup Remover

I've talked a good deal about makeup here on the blog. I'm quite fond of it. It is a great transformative thing, and is generally pretty accessible to anyone who wants it. What I have been pretty quiet on, however, is how to take it off. There are tons of makeup removers available at any given store, in any price range you can imagine. My personal favorite is good, old-fashioned oil.

my well-loved bottle of oil

I mix my own oil, though you can buy cleansing oils anywhere that cosmetics are available to be bought. I use a mix of grapeseed, jojoba, and castor oils. This mix also serves as a cleansing method known as Oil Cleansing. For people with dryer/more sensitive skin, this method is a lifesaver. Even if you don't do "OCM" exclusively (I don't anymore) this is still the best way to remove all sorts of makeup. Even waterproof stuff doesn't stand a chance. Keep reading to see how I do it.

My starting point today, the last look from my one palette challenge:

warm water
clean washrag
oil/oils of your choice

Step One: Oil Yourself Up

I know, I know. It sounds weird. But trust me here. Pour a half-dollar sized puddle of oil into your palm. I generally turn the hot tap on at this point, because the water in my bathroom takes forever to heat up. Rub your hands together, then start rubbing the oil all over your face. I generally start with my cheeks and forehead, to loosen my foundation and not spread my eye makeup all over. It really doesn't matter though, you can do it however you want. When it comes to your eyes, gently rub your oiled fingers in a circular/downward motion to loosen your eye makeup and mascara. If you are wearing waterproof, this might take a little while longer, but just keep rubbing and it'll give.

if its halloween, you can just stop here

Step Two: Remove your Oils

Once you have warm water coming from your tap, soak your rag and start wiping the oil from your face. I usually do it in small circles, so as to exfoliate and cleanse at the same time. Be gentle here, you don't want to rub your face raw. All we are doing is removing the oil, not trying to take the freckles along with it. (freckles are cool now, by the way.)

After this step some folks like to wash with a gentle, foamy cleanser. This is up to you. I personally don't, but I have drier skin and I don't mind the feeling of the oil afterwards. But you totally can.

Step Three: Moisturize 

Once you feel like the oil is removed, and you've washed again if necessary, go ahead and gently blot your face dry with a towel. Then apply your favorite moisturizer...if you feel like you need it. If you don't double-cleanse, you may not feel like you need more moisture to your skin. I do, otherwise my forehead and cheeks flake like a bad friend. I use Cerave in the tub. Its thick and rich, but absorbs pretty quickly. However, I don't use this near my eyes, as I am prone to milia and I find that too rich lotions seem to cause them to appear.

mmm lotion. A little goes a very long way. This
might be too much.

All done! My face is happy and clean. I've been using a variant of this method for the last three years. I feel like it has really helped control my adult-onset acne and surprise dryness. (When I was in my 20s, I had oily skin. Growing up sucks.) There are loads of different ways you can do this, and I've included some of my favorite oil-related links below.

my skin looks unreasonably good here.

In the interests of full disclosure:

For a time, OCM was my only method of cleansing. And I loved it. It did seem to help my acne heal up faster, and I started getting less and less eruptions over time. But the steaming (which, btw, may not be good for your skin) irritated my sensitive cheeks and seemed to exacerbate my dry patches. I eventually worked regular cleansers back into my routine. I alternate between Purity Cleanse from Cosmedix, which I use 2-3 times a week, and Cerave Hydrating Cleanser which does not foam. I generally use these in the morning/during my shower, and reserve oils for makeup removal. After nearly four years of trial and error, I have found this is the best for my skin.

Here is some additional info on Oil Cleansing:


  1. This is why I love you so much... It's important to state that what works for you may not work for everyone, and it speaks of your integrity! Fifteen or so years ago I used baby oil exclusively to remove makeup, that shifted to almay waterproof makeup remover pads about 12 years ago, and some julep Bare Face cleansing oil when I'm feeling all fancy-pants. When I want a change of pace, or am out of one thing or another, I use olive oil or coconut oil/almond oil. Works well, and feels great. I'll have to whip yours up and give it a try!

    1. How does coconut oil work for you? I've read so much about it being comedogenic that I am scared to try it.

      (also, thank you very much. I really appreciate your words.)

    2. I've heard that about coconut oil as well, but I haven't had an issue. Maybe I don't use it often enough for it to affect me, I dunno. I probably use it just 'cause I have it on hand. I use it as a fill in for just about anything; cuticles, on the ends of my hair as a treatment before showers, body lotion...etc..

  2. Totally agree! I don't do OCM exclusively anymore either, but there is no doubt oil is a fail-proof makeup remover, even for waterproof mascara. I have combo/mostly oily skin and I don't use a cleanser after removing makeup, but I often also moisturize - it seems to help any remaining oil absorb or something. It seems to work for me!

    1. It amazes me how many different skin types oil works with. Its like magic! I used to not moisturize, but I also find that any residual oil is absorbed a bit more when I do. Maybe its that little added bit of massage?


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